5 of the Most Epic Animal Migrations

By land, air, and sea these animals that migrate travel hundreds or even thousands of miles for love, food, and shelter.

By Taylor Shea
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    Arctic Tern: travels 1.5 million miles in a lifetime

    Scientists only recently developed a device small enough to attach to the tiny tern, and were shocked to discover that it recorded the bird traveling an average of 44,000 miles a year. Terns start near the North Pole and journey to the South Pole, then return to their breeding grounds in the northern Arctic. With this pace, it's estimated that the average tern will travel around 1.5 million miles in its lifetime, equivalent to three trips to the moon and back.

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    Leatherback Sea Turtles: travel 10,000 miles or more

    Sea turtles are well known for their amazing migrations, but among them it's the leatherback turtles that undertake the longest journey. Sometimes traveling 10,000 miles or more between breeding and feeding grounds, leatherbacks can be found as far north as Norway and as far south as New Zealand. A thick layer of fat gives the creature's shell its leathery appearance, and allows the animals to tolerate much colder water than other turtles. Every two to three years females migrate to coastal shores to lay their eggs, often returning to the same beach where they were born.

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    Wildebeest: a migration that's two million strong

    The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest migration of land mammals; from July through October, two million of these animals that migrate leave Tanzania and head for Kenya which is 500 miles away. Sadly, about 250,000 of the creatures die, often while crossing the crocodile-infested Mara River or from an attack on the other side by lions or hyenas waiting for them.

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    Straw-Colored Fruit Bat: millions sleep in one tree

    Eight million bats migrate from the Congo to Zambia’s Kasanka National Park to eat the park's abundant supply of musuku fruit. Strangely, the bats choose to occupy only one acre of the 10,000-acre forest. Millions of bats, together weighing up to ten tons, sleep in one tree, which scientists say is the highest density mass of warm-blooded mammals on the planet. 

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    Monarch Butterfly: migration happens over several generations

    The monarch butterfly's migration is so long that it takes three or four generations of the winged creature to travel from their Mexican wintering grounds to the Northern United States. As many as 300 million butterflies make the journey each year. 

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